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The Blog of the Indiana State Archives

  IARA Divisions State Archives Collections From the Vault Blog

Volunteer  Month

April is National Volunteer Month. Many of you may not know it, but we at IARA have the privilege to work with some fantastic volunteers. We wanted to take some time to highlight the work our volunteers have been doing and show some appreciation for these valued individuals.

Most of the State Archives’ patrons have probably engaged with work completed by volunteers at some point. Did you know, most of our online indexes were created by volunteers? If you have used any of our online indexes, then you’ve worked with volunteer-created content! Volunteers are responsible for almost all the 1,529,498 names currently searchable on the Research Indiana Indexes.

The Indiana State Archives’ collections include many unprocessed records, which can be challenging or impossible for genealogists to use. Thanks to our volunteers, we’ve been able to make more and more of these collections accessible. For example, volunteers worked hard to process and index our collection of Marion County Will Records. We currently have a volunteer working on a similar project with wills from Jefferson County.

Volunteer Sally Small is currently working on a project to index the Secretary of State’s Record of Commission collection. The books date from 1823 to 1972 and include information submitted by each county regarding their county officers and terms. Most books give the office title, name, date of commission, length of term, and sometimes the reason for the official’s departure. The books include county offices such as justices of the peace, sheriffs, surveyors, coroners, clerks, recorders, and judges. Some books include additional state offices, like secretary to the governor, State Prison superintendent, and State Bank director, among others.

When asked about “cool finds” in the collection, Sally noted three things. First, the way women began taking office early. Women would sometimes be appointed to office when their husbands died during term. Sally explained that women by the 1960s women started to be elected regularly. They became elected most frequently to the offices of recorder, treasurer, auditor, and clerk. There were few female coroners and no women surveyors during the period covered by the books.

Second, the way you can trace the changes in office terms stood out to Sally. People took office immediately after the elections until the early 20th century but gradually shifted to January 1st. Sally is currently working on the seventh, and final, book of the collection and noted that some offices still had odd transition dates.

Sally’s third observation was that some offices stopped being recorded in the books. Such offices included judges, notaries of the public, and justices of the peace. Sally was able to tell us that the justice of the peace elections ended in 1975 but she noticed they stopped being recorded some time before that. These changes are likely due to governmental policy changes.

In addition to in-person volunteering, the Indiana State Archives also utilizes to connect with virtual volunteers. Virtual volunteers can create a FromThePage account for free and assist on our indexing projects from home. Virtual volunteers are currently working on indexing the Indiana Civil War Draft Enrollment Lists, Indiana Civil War Volunteer Militia Enrollment Lists, and the Indiana State Teachers Association Register (ca. 1856 to 1895). Our projects are hosted on, and it is free to sign up and make an account. Once these projects are complete, the indexed names are added to the Indiana State Archives’ Research Indiana Indexes.

Plaques commemorating volunteer work.